AMD Radeon HD 7750 & Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition Review: Evading The Price/Performance Curveby Ryan Smith & Ganesh T S on February 15, 2012 12:01 AM EST
Wrapping things up, I once had someone comment to me that they can gauge my opinion of a product based solely on the first paragraph of the final page. If I say “there’s no such thing as a bad card, only bad prices” then it’s likely not a favorable review. That statement is once more being validated today, if only in a meta context.
To be clear, we’ve been waiting for some time to see GCN filter down to lower priced cards, and even longer to see PowerTune in particular make it down here. The fact that we now have reliable power throttling and solid compute performance is not lost on us. It’s a welcome advancement.
However our expectation with a new manufacturing process – and perhaps we’re being greedy here – is that we’ll see cards become cheaper and we’ll see power consumption come down. AMD has achieved the second item in spades, and as a result both the Radeon HD 7750 and Radeon HD 7770 are well ahead of any competing 75W and 100W cards respectively. The 7750 in particular is a standout thanks to the fact that it generally offers 5700 series performance on a sub-75W card, and even at $109 it clearly offers a great deal of value as an HTPC video card. All of this will be an even more welcome change when Cape Verde filters down to laptops in the coming months.
The problem for AMD today isn’t the power/performance curve, it’s the price/performance curve. 16 months ago AMD launched the Radeon HD 6850 at $179 amidst fierce competition from NVIDIA. Ignoring the current price of the 6850 for the moment, on average the 7770 delivers 90% of the 6850’s gaming performance for 90% of the 6850’s launch price. In other words in 16 months AMD has moved nowhere along the price/performance curve – if you go by launch prices you’re getting the same amount of performance per dollar today as you did in October of 2010. In reality the 6850 is much cheaper than that, with a number of cards selling for $159 before a rebate, while several more 6870s sell for $159 after rebate. The 7770 is so far off the price/performance curve that you have to believe that this is either a pricing error or AMD is planning on quickly halting 6800 series production.
Now to be fair there’s more to consider than just performance in existing games. The 7770 supports DX11.1, VCE, PowerTune, Fast HDMI, and other features the 6800 series doesn’t have, and it does all of this while consuming around 25W less than the 6850. But that’s just not enough. DX11.1 is a point update that’s still the better part of a year away and will only offer a tiny number of new features, while VCE is AWOL and cannot be evaluated, and Fast HDMI will be a niche feature for use with extremely expensive TVs for some time to come. This is not like the 4000/5000 series gap – today and tomorrow the 7000 series will only offer marginal feature benefits. The best argument for the 7770 is the power difference, but considering that both the 6850 and 7770 require external power anyhow that 25W difference is unlikely to matter.
The 7700 series is a fine lineup of cards, but AMD has finally shot itself in the foot with its conservative pricing. The 7750 can ride on the sub-75W niche for now, but the only way the 7770 will make any sense is if it comes down in price. Until then AMD’s worst competition for the 7700 series is not NVIDIA, it’s their 6850.
With that said, the 7700 series clearly has potential. XFX’s R7770 Black Edition S Double Dissipation does a great job demonstrating this with its virtually silent operation, while the card’s factory overclock largely closes the performance gap with the 6850. With its combination of performance and power consumption the 7700 series will be AMD’s midrange workhorse for 2012, of that there is no question. Now it’s simply up to AMD to make it so. After all there’s no such thing as a bad card, only bad prices.